Retro Review | Deepstar Six (1989)

Retro Review | Deepstar Six (1989)

In 1989, the motion picture ‘The Abyss’ led you to believe that friendly aliens existed at the bottom of the ocean. That isn’t always true however, just ask the crew of Deepstar Six!

Back in the 1990’s when mooching around town, my friends and I would usually browse the aisles of the local Blockbuster video store. We’d see what big films had finally come to VHS as well as checking out some of the lesser known titles.

I always made a beeline for the science fiction section and I remember always glancing over one title in particular and wondering if was actually worth watching. Having become a fan of James Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’ after its television premiere one Sunday night on Channel Four, this film looked like it was trying to capitalise on the success of that film. That film was called ‘Deepstar Six’.

My research has since uncovered that both ‘Deepstar Six’ and ‘The Abyss’ were actually in production at the same time. ‘Deepstar Six’ was written by Lewis Abernathy, a friend of James Cameron, whose request he ignored that both films should not release at the same time. Because of this the two fell out of friendship but later patched things up during the deep sea filming for Titanic.

The plot of the film revolves around the small crew of people who spend months at a time at the bottom of the ocean working for the United States Navy. Apparently, although never fully explained, the US government wants nuclear missiles installed in strategic positions on the sea bed. Deep sea workers are then contracted out to install these missile sleds.

First they have to research and scout out the area where they want to place the missiles. In this case the apparently ideal location is on top of a cavern which was formed by a lava bubble millions of years ago.

I thought the safer option would be to place the missiles as near as possible to play it safe but apparently that’s not what’s done in these situations. They plant explosives to blow up the cavern roof so they can place the missile sled on top of the debris once it’s all settled down.

The two crew members in charge of this operation send in a remote drone to investigate the cavern as the explosive only seems to blow a hole in the side. The drone apparently malfunctions and rather than risking disciplinary action for losing a drone (which they’ve done before), they decide to pilot their submersible into the cavern to retrieve the damaged equipment.

Before finding the drone however, they pick up a large mass on the sonar which is approaching at an incredible speed. Before they know it they are attack by something we never see.

This unknown force then goes onto to attack the nearby submersible workshop pushing it ever near to an abyssal trench. For whatever reason the attack stops and the surviving member of the workshop is rescued and taken back to the main habitat.

Then everyone seems to forget about the attacks that just wiped out three people and become more concerned with placing the nuclear missiles. When one of the crew members is asked to go prepare the missiles, he unwittingly sets off the self-destruction sequence. Hard to believe I know!

The missiles detonate and cause two powerful shockwaves to hit the underwater station. I say powerful but for all intent purposes they might as well been a bunch of guys outside the station trying to rock it by hand, it barely moves and one pipe bursts spraying the crew with water.

Now because of the apparently huge amount of damage this shockwave has caused, everyone has to help repair the underwater station so they can use the decompression chamber which will allow them to escape in the rescue pod to the surface.

It’s during this rescue that one of the crew members, who is repairing the pipework on the outside whilst in an atmospheric diving suit (a self-contained hard suit with movable joints), is attacked once more by the unseen foe which hasn’t been seen for an hour of the film at this point. There’s only thirty minutes of film left to go!

It’s now that we finally get a good look at the creature we’ve been waiting to see all this time…and the wait isn’t really worth it. For the time and budget it’s a great piece of animatronics but I wasn’t really convinced on the design. Even at the end of the film we never get to see the monster clearly and I can only describe it as a cross between a cobra and a lobster!

The acting fairs little better. The main star of the piece is Greg Evigan sporting his well-trimmed beard. I know he’s been in many productions but for me he’s always one half of the 90’s television show ‘My Two Dads’.

Evigan is perfectly watchable but the same can’t be said for Miguel Ferrer. For me anyway, Ferrer is best known as OCP executive Bob Morton from 1997’s Robocop. In ‘Deepstar Six’, it’s his fault that the missiles are set to self-destruct. Whilst he is fine at the beginning of the film, he’s supposed to be suffering from stress of the situation and starts to lose control of himself.

Ferrer plays it a bit too much and one moment in particular he accidently kills a fellow crew member whilst the creature is on the other side of the room and this sets off his paranoid madness even more. It’s a stand out performance for the wrong reasons but if it’s any consolation he does receive a rather gruesome death due to his own actions.

The rest of the cast perform a fine job but nothing outstanding, a collection of stereotypical characters. Although it was nice to see the women had strong roles. They didn’t just run and scream as I were expecting, they fought back when the creature attacked.

Finally a special mention to what must have been a tough job for the miniature special effects crew. As far as I know, the miniature work in ‘The Abyss’ was filmed “dry for wet”. This means no water was used and various techniques are used to fool the view into thinking the opposite.

However on ‘Deepstar Six’, it looks as though everything was filmed in water tanks and that must have made the job so much harder.

I found ‘Deepstar Six’to be a very average film, it’s not great but nor is it totally terrible either. If you wish to seek it out, just don’t spend a lot of money doing so.

There’s also one other underwater film that was released in the late eighties as part of this underwater aliens/monster trend, its name was ‘Leviathan’. Maybe, I’ll review that next?

What do you think of ‘Deepstar Six’? Do you agree with my views or think something else entirely? Why not find me on twitter (@UKFilmNerd), come to The Unheard Nerd Facebook page or just leave your comments below.

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John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

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